Lassonde team wins top prize at Toronto Mini Maker Faire

Display of the concept for a talkbox
The team’s TalkBox display
Display of the concept for a talkbox
The team’s TalkBox display

A team from the Lassonde School of Engineering has won a top prize at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire – the city’s biggest festival celebrating makers and the things they create. Lassonde’s TalkBox team was named the winner of the Bridge the Gap prize. Talkbox is a project by faculty and students from the GaMaY Lab at Lassonde.

TalkBox is a low-cost Speech Generating Device (SGD) that helps individuals communicate and engage in social interactions. It was conceived and created in collaboration with Ray Feraday, special education teacher with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and a maker, and an innovator of technology use in the classroom.

The Lassonde students leading the project were Computer Science graduate researchers Foad Hamidi and Brandon Haworth and Computer Engineering undergraduate Toni Kunic, together with the “Devices 4 Disabilities” student club at York University that is supervised by Lassonde Professor Melanie Baljko.

Participants at the MakerFaire
Participants at the Mini Maker Faire

The Bridging the Gap Award given to Talkbox by design firm Bridgeable recognized the maker demonstrating the following:

  • Strong, purpose-driven work to address a real human need.
  • Creativity in bridging the gap between research and design, concept and prototype, or between material or technology and execution.
  • Ability to clearly communicate vision behind their creation and its benefits.

The Talkbox project has several goals:

  • Empowerment: to provide a low-cost open-source, open-hardware SGD and other assistive technologies to the community, so that those who need such devices can more easily obtain them.  To empower more individuals who have disabilities be makers themselves. To create an ecosystem of making that provides employment opportunities for high school
    Photo of the award which looks like three boxes connected together by chrome pipes
    The Bridging the Gap Award

    students who have developmental disabilities.

  • Community: to build a community of knowledge and practice around maker approaches to assistive technologies. This includes create rich experiential learning experiences for undergraduate students in the Lassonde School of Engineering and
    The TalkBox Team after the award presentation. Pictured from left are:
    The TalkBox Team following the award presentation.

    other undergraduate programs.

  • Innovation: to make use of new modes of academic-community collaboration. To provide a maker-based mode in the ecology of technology distribution for SGDs and other assistive technologies (which includes the mode provided by Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program). To enrich the body of scholarship that is concerned with the field of Assistive Technology.  To mobilize knowledge outputs from academic research into active use in the community.